Friday, January 26, 2024


AKA "Friday News Dump"

Or, rather, it would have been (a Friday news dump), if I had been on the ball today.

Let's get right to brass tacks. I feel like a heel for failing to mention this earlier, but Ben Gibson is currently running an adventure writing contest that ends on the 31st. I should definitely have mentioned this earlier, but the thing has a limit of two pages, which many would-be designers can bang out in a weekend. And guess what? You've got a weekend left. Get to it!

So who the heck is Ben Gibson? He's an adventure cobbler himself, who's written some well reviewed pieces, most (all?) of which are of the "short form" variety. Spent some time today downloading and reading things like The Fall of Whitecliff and Night at Fausen's Manor...3E/Pathfinder stuff that reminds me (somewhat) of the best of the old One Page Dungeon Contest (which might still be going on, but I'm not paying attention). wonder he's chosen the small format for his contest...if anyone's qualified to judge such stuff, he'd be. Heck, reading it nearly entices me to play a little 3E...except that I still remember what 3E turns into after 7th level or so.

[spoiler: a crapshow, that's what]

Still, for low level stuff, those adventures have definite conversion material/potential. Anyway, I'm going to try to get something in for his contest before Wednesday (the deadline); that's doable, right? Just have a basketball game, a soccer game, volleyball practice, etc., etc.

[somehow, I got tagged with coaching 7th/8th grade volleyball this year. I haven't played volleyball since 1987, when I WAS in 8th grade! *sigh*]

I am sorry I haven't been keeping up with the blog posts in the New Year...I've been distracted. NFL playoffs, and football coaches disappearing from the local teams and eager awaiting of news on those fronts have me glued to my radio while doing menial chores around the home. It's silly; it's distracting. 

*ugh* I don't have time to talk about this right now. Okay, I'm going to amend the title of my post. Get your contest submission in, if you have the chance (five more days!). I haven't yet put pen to paper, so it's not like you'd be lagging far behind Yours Truly...just get something in.

Yak at you all later. Later!
; )

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Return of the Jedi

Last night my family watched Return of the Jedi (AKA Star Wars, Episode VI). This was not our first time.

I was cooking dinner tonight...grilling, in fact (no rain...for a change)...and had briefly considered posting pix of how I make Paraguayan chimichurri and baked mandioca. Eh. Another time. My grill is on its last legs (at least the charcoal pan), and in need of a replacement (probably in the Spring). The film I just threw on as "background noise" while putting stuff together...although the movie I started streaming was Rogue One. It was my daughter that switched it to RotJ.

My daughter (Sofia) is nine years old. Because she is my daughter, she's already seen these films...multiple times. However, this is not the same with her classmates. Oh, some have seen the movies...her friend Posey, and most (all?) of the boys. But not her best friend (Milana), and another friend...Maddie...has only seen the original trilogy, and only over the last three weeks. 

They, of course, love it.

Still Good
So they've been playing a lot of "Star Wars" at recess. Acting out the movies. Pretending to be the heroes or the villains or the stormtroopers, etc. This is why she wanted to watch Jedi...they've been self-performing the films sequentially and only just gotten up to "Jabba's palace." Sofia says they know most of the lines (well, she does anyway), but she just wanted to 'go over it.' The film had only just started as my wife and son got home from soccer practice (her turn driving tonight), and Diego exclaimed "Hey! I want to watch!" So we did.

It's interesting, watching my kids re-watch these films...films that were so much a part of MY childhood (I saw all the original films in the theater...multiple times). Sofia where I was at her age as far as understanding goes, but interesting to see her amazement at non-CGI special f/x. My son is much more developed and mature for his age and eyes things with the critical eyes of a film critic and seasoned campaigner (a lot of pseudo-military stuff in these SW films and my boy is all about the war games and military history). 

BUT...just astounding how well they hold up as entertaining films for kids. I do not approve of, nor appreciate, all the the things my kids find "awesome"...a lot of their pop music, for example, or some of the kids shows they dig, or many of their book choices (I can't stand those "Wimpy Kid Books" and they both eat those up). But here's something that we all connect on.

It is also interesting that the 9 year olds are SO into this...perhaps this is the "sweet spot" for those movies? I believe Diego was about the same age when he started his "D&D Club" at school, mainly to run a Star Wars RPG of his own devising (based on the B/X chassis...natch). That club has since gone defunct, but the kids who enjoyed it are still playing D&D (albeit with different groups outside of school). But...Star Wars (and, specifically, the original trilogy) were a unifying factor. 

Sofia last night (during the opening scene in the new Death Star): "Darth Vader is the BEST!" He's pretty good all right, probably my favorite "supervillain" of all time. Religious zealot, scarred cyborg, rage-filled, James Earl Jones. Just...menacing. Shiny helmet. Black cape. Featureless mask. It's all delightful. Jedi may be the worst of the first three films, but turning Vader into the hero at the end was a stroke of genius (although I prefer the original cut of the climactic scene which has NO inserted Vader dialogue during the crescendo of the film's score...why make the scene weaker, Lucas? Jeez).

Ok. I'll stop. 

[by the way, while Sofia has a huge appreciation for DV, I know that her favorite Star Wars character of all time...from all the still Darth Maul. She will tell you the same, if asked. She prefers the Rebels for our Star Wars Legion games, but I'm guessing that'll change as soon as she sees a Maul model on the shelf]

Why am I talking about this? Partly to grease the ol' 'blogging wheels' (a little rusty lately). But also because it's (very slightly) pertinent to a project I want to talk about. NOT a Star Wars project, but...perhaps..."SW adjacent?" That might be accurate.

First, though, I need to get back to that whole 'procedural gameplay' thing I mentioned earlier. We'll get to it.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Something New

I wrote three-quarters of a rather long post yesterday (the son's birthday) that I didn't have a chance to finish/publish...what else is new?...

[at least it wasn't particularly maudlin...THAT long post happened a couple days before (when I was more than usually drunk) and will probably stay, lingering, on the draft board as a reminder of my "inner darkness." I was just in a rather depressed mood that evening]

...*ahem* a rather looong post attempting to explain why D&D as designed is eminently suitable to its role as an adventure game, as opposed, pretty much any other game that gets categorized these days as an "RPG."

[we are, of course, NOT discussing "computer RPGs;" for purposes of my writing here, I have zero interest in CRPGs]

Anyhoo, I didn't finish it because A) time constraints, and B) I was having a hard time nailing my point or (perhaps) bringing the argument/thesis around to a satisfying conclusion (satisfying to me at any rate). Why do other not beholden to elves and swords and wizards and dragons...just, flat out suck for long-term, experiential adventure gaming?

Why indeed.

SO, while out driving today, or musing a bit, or...SOMEthing....a new idea popped into my head. A new, interesting (maybe) project. Kind of a culmination, or (better) a possible synthesis of a NUMBER of ideas I've had over the years. For a particular game design. 

As usual, this particular idea is a bit...daunting. 

So that's all I want to say at the moment. If anything comes of it, I'll write more. I just want to spend a couple days/nights tinkering with the idea. That's all; just...tinkering. 

My son is a teenager, by the way. 13. I started this blog two years before he was born. It's been a long road. A long, long road.

Peace and love, folks.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

RIP Jennell Jaquays

Legendary game designer Jennell Jaquays passed away today at the age of 67. She will be missed.

Thank you for the games.

Good art.

Monday, January 8, 2024

Space Wars

So the Seahawks season is over and, despite yet another close win (against a 4-13 halfling team...big whoop), the orks are out of the playoffs (*sigh*). I may discuss that in later post (or the playoffs in general), but at the moment I'm not in the mood for Blood Bowl.

[not that Blood Bowl hasn't been on the mind a bit...the kids have been clamoring for it in recent days and are in the process of painting up a couple BB teams (wood elves and amazons; Christmas gifts from last year, if I remember correctly)]

It should come as little surprise that in MY household, there's been plenty of game playing that's been going the last couple weeks (during the holiday vacation season). What might be surprising is that almost none of it has been D&D related. Instead, it's been card games, board games, and war games...specifically a new war game that was on the boy's Christmas list: Star Wars Legion. Prior to New Year's eve (when we had to clean the table for a dinner party) our dining room was dominated by battlefield detritus and unpainted models. Now...well, the battlefield hasn't returned (yet) but the table is once again dominated by scores of miniatures...primed miniatures that are in the process of being painted.

Since it IS game related and it's been the main thing occupying my attention lately (at least, the bandwidth I reserve for gaming), I figured I might as well write something about it.

Under the tree this year.

Star Wars Legion
is a miniature war game; the core box set comes in two varieties Republic vs. Separatist or Empire vs. Rebels. The rules for both are the same, but the models included in the box are different. We, of course, have the latter set because...duh. 

I find the game VERY reminiscent of 2nd edition Warhammer 40,000. Not necessarily in game play (initiative and turn procedure is NOT 40K-esque, and the thing uses custom dice rather than standard d6s), but in terms of army construction and general paradigm. Each player picks up a faction. Unit types are given "rank" categories, which limits how many of each type can be included in the army list. There are normal generals and whatnot or "special" (Unique) figures based on film characters. There are "upgrade" cards that can purchased for specific points...very much like 40K's "war gear" and "psychic power" cards. And just like 2E 40K, the special characters, can punch above their point value, absolutely dominating the battlefield...something that the 40K designers endeavored to rectify between 2E and 3E.

[when it comes to 40K, I logged the most "game time" playing 2E, though I spent more years collecting & building 3E and/or 4E, before chucking the thing around the time of 5E]

Which is is very Star Wars. Luke Skywalker should be able to carve his way through a unit of stormtroopers. Vader should be a big, menacing presence on the moving (slowly) about the battlefield. Mandalorians with jetpacks should be highly mobile, elite units. Etc.

The game has a LOT of fiddle to it: a lot of special rules and spot mechanics and tokens, reminiscent of Magic cards...a fairly obvious influence on the design of Star Wars Legion. But I like the game...a lot. For a NUMBER of reasons:

1) Star Wars is fun. Star Wars as a war game (stormtroopers vs. rebels) is a blast. The models are all recognizable by anyone with even a passing knowledge of the films, and their capabilities are well-modeled by the game mechanics.

2) Really quality components (easily stored in a nice box) and fairly straightforward rules that, after a couple play-throughs, are fairly easy to grok. No issues for the 12 year old, despite being for ages 14+.

3) Dirt-cheap investment. Anyone familiar with GW stuff knows how much money can be spent on the miniatures hobby. I remember when a single rhino tank was $35 or a landraider was an "outrageous" $50ish. Just checking Amazon this morning, the prices on these are up to $89 and $140

Holy. Crap. 

Star Wars Legion, by contrast, are cheaper to buy BUT (more importantly) have an 800 point structure limit. The core box provides two forces of circa 500 can customize a legal army with the purchase of 2-3 extra units, probably with less than $70ish total in extra expenditure.  They're cheap enough you can outfit multiple "800 point armies" of the same faction for little money (the core box is currently available on-line for $ that to 40K!). I bought myself a late Christmas present of the "Blizzard" box: three snowtrooper units (21 models), 2 speeder bike units (4 models), another Vader, and an AT-ST (!!) all with associated cards, upgrades, and extra tokens. Total price: $105. Scheduled to arrive tomorrow. One of these days I'll throw down the extra $13 to buy General Veers, and my "Hoth assault" army will be complete. 

[never mind...just took 2 minutes to place the order. It's still only $15 with tax...arrives tomorrow, too]

Arriving tomorrow.
Back in 1996 I paid $18 a pop for each two-pack of space marine terminators. I got six (total), all with thunder hammers and painted them up to be Khorne berserkers. Less than a year later, they were outlawed by 40Ks new rule set and (so far as I know) have never since been a legal 40K unit. Screw you, Games Workshop.

4) Easy assembly. The kids have been doing (most of) the cutting and gluing...I just do all the priming, out in the garage (to save on their young lungs). Even the really fiddly models (the AT-RT, the Mandalorians)...the kid put them together no problem, without adult help.

5) Lego compatible. Over the years, my kids have acquired quite the collection of Lego sets, many of which are Star Wars themed. While these have been used for plenty of "Lego wars" in the past, they are pretty close to the same scale as Star Wars Legion...which means that we have ready-made "terrain" for our battlefield. Who needs plastic forests and spray-painted "hills" when you can battle in the Tattooine cantina? Plus, I just like repurposing toys...or ways that make it useful. 

6) Fast gameplay. The game plays quite fast...once you get a handle on how each unit's special rules and instructions work. That part is kind of a pain, as each unit generally has at least 1-2 special rules associated with it (even before adding various "upgrade" cards), and you're bound to make mistakes in the first battle or two (we did). However, the limited NUMBER of units (that 800 points is only enough for 6-7 groups), combined with fast turn sequence means you get ramped up pretty quick. The whole "issuing orders" phase (a card drawing mechanic that takes the place of initiative rolling) allows for interesting tactical maneuvering, and the quick attrition means game play speeds up substantially as the game goes. Six turns (again: memories of 2E 40K) goes VERY fast, but battles are tight right to the end. We dig it.

7) With regard to rules, I'm generally fine. Yes, Luke is a beast. He's also been shot to death in every battle we've played. Same with Vader. The only mechanical issue that bugs (or that I'm not used to) is that troop models cannot be screened by other troop models. So, even though the stormtroopers advance in front of DV (because Darth is Sooo Slooow), rebel forces can ignore the troopers, focusing fire on the commander behind. In practice it hasn't been a big deal...but it does feel odd.

Anyway. War gaming is fun. War gaming in spaaaace is also quite fun. Even the nine year old is into it (she's currently painting her Amazon team, but has a Chewbacca and Leia for SWL and plans to get in on the next battle). The kids are getting to an age when I can fo this kind of thing with age where I can unpack my old crates of 40K minis and not worry about them smashing them crazily, or pitching one in a tantrum of frustration (always a possibility with young or immature players). 

But I'm kind of over 40K. I mean, there's a lot of sly Star Wars references in the original 40K game (which I own, but have never played), and I'm tempted to run some first edition 40K using the SWL miniatures in place of GW stuff (now that would be a hoot!). I thought about introducing them to 40K proper, but even though I've got the stuff for it...what edition would I teach them? I many editions are there now? Eight? Nine? I've got rule books for the first four (five? Maybe) editions. But do I have a favorite? Not really. It's such a simple system, but there are changes to every version that changes the game in significant ways. 

Nah. I think I'll stick with the new Star Wars game for a bit. I'm sure 40K will still be around in ten a twelfth edition with $300 tank models...if the kids want to try it out.

*** EDIT: Sorry, almost forgot: Go Dawgs! ***

Monday, January 1, 2024

Happy New Year!

This is my second try at writing this post. The first one just kept getting more and more morbid...far too morbid for the holidays, in my opinion.

Apologies. My 2023 was rough.

Here's hoping 2024 will be LESS rough...less an emotional roller coaster. Man, I had some high High Points this year. But I also had some really, really low points (main culprit: too many deaths).

Eh. It's life. 

The kids will be going back to school this It is nearly noon PST and they are still sleeping (we had some friends over last night and were up till 2am). I should probably wake them so that we can have at least SOME fun before getting back to the grind.

But I do enjoy these solitary moments with my coffee and laptop.

ANYhoo...once they are back to school, I'll have a little more time for reflection and posting. 

To everyone reading this: Best wishes for happy and healthy New Year for you and your loved ones! God bless!
: )